North Carolina is known for its scenic beauty, its moderate climate and the beautiful beaches that adorn its eastern shore. The state’s mountainous interior is popular for its world-class recreational opportunities, as well as its funky shopping districts and endless craft breweries. Best of all, the state of North Carolina is just a short drive from many areas in the South and much of the Midwest, making it a popular tourist destination for much of the United States.

If you’re planning to visit North Carolina or you live there already, you may be wondering what kind of small businesses you can visit to show your support. This concept may be especially top of mind right now as Small Business Saturday 2023 approaches, but shopping small is a noble goal any time of the year.

Whether you want to enjoy wine and fine foods from a mom-and-pop eatery or you are trying to check off your holiday gift list with local goods only, read on to learn which North Carolina small businesses you’ll want to visit.

Small businesses in North Carolina’s mountains

North Carolina’s mountains include destinations like Asheville and its foothills, as well as High Country, the Great Smoky Mountains and Cherokee. This region of the state is well known for its hiking, biking, skiing and snowboarding opportunities, as well as its down-home eateries, breweries and distilleries that cater to tourists and locals alike.

There are an endless number of ways to fill your days in North Carolina’s mountains, whether you’re into outdoor activities and nature or you want to enjoy a fresh meal in a farm-to-table dining establishment. Either way, you’ll want to check in with these small businesses in the mountains that offer something for everyone.

  • Located about 30 miles southwest of Asheville near the Great Smoky Mountains, The Chef’s Table is a farm-to-table fine dining restaurant with a focus on wine. This small eatery only holds 42 guests, and reservations are recommended due to space constraints and continuous demand.

    Visitors here will find menu items like hot fried Virginia oysters, brie salad and bourbon pecan sunburst trout, to name a few local favorites. The eatery also offers more than 250 unique and tasty wines, along with its own bourbon menu and scotch menu.

    Where to shop
    : Head to The Chef’s Table website to make a reservation or check out the menu.
  • The Salisbury Emporium is a collection of 85 different shops that are located in a century-old building in Salisbury, North Carolina — which is about 25 miles northeast of Charlotte. The building itself is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, and it features more than 15,000 square feet of retail space with individual small businesses selling their wares. Head here to find items like Christmas decor, fine china, antiques, garden decorations and more.

    Where to shop:
    The Salisbury Emporium website offers information on included shops, featured items and more.
  • Asheville, North Carolina, is home to dozens of funky shops, including a fun and unique gift shop called Ten Thousand Villages. The shop was founded entirely by volunteers and it is still run by volunteers to this day. Not only does it feature handmade home decor, but it also boasts fun holiday items, kitchen essentials, bath and body accessories and more.

    Where to shop
    : Shop in person or visit the Ten Thousand Villages website to stock up on handmade items from artisans around the world.
  • Located in Cherokee, North Carolina, Ravenhawk Gifts & Lorie’s Fresh Fudge has been operating since 2002. This family-run store offers locally made gifts galore, as well as fresh fudge in flavors like cookies and cream and butter pecan. The store itself also offers handmade Native American dolls, Cherokee-made rock oil lamps and other locally crafted items.

    Where to shop: Head to the Ravenhawk Gifts & Lorie’s Fresh Fudge website to shop online, or pay a visit to the store in downtown Cherokee.
  • Balsam Falls Brewing Co. is run by a husband-and-wife team in the town of Sylva, which is about a 20-minute drive from Cherokee. The brewery serves up creative beer flavors and southern comfort food in a funky downtown setting. Homemade brews vary by season with options like Tiger’s Eye Cinnamon Perry and Pumpkin Cider, which are available during late fall into winter. Food options such as pretzels and cheese and loaded tater tots also pair perfectly with beer on tap.

    Where to shop
    : Visit the Balsam Falls Brewing Co. website to learn more.

Small businesses in North Carolina’s Piedmont region

North Carolina’s Piedmont region makes up the central core of the state, composed of cities like Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and Raleigh. Not only does this part of the state host North Carolina wine country, but it is known for its craft breweries, its love for NASCAR and its endless natural attractions.

If you’re planning a visit to the Piedmont region, you’ll quickly find there’s an abundance of things to see and do, eat, and drink. You can also shop local with the following small businesses we highlight below.

  • The Sandhills Woman’s Exchange has been open for more than 100 years, and it is home to a cabin cafe and gift shop with a range of unique items for purchase. For example, shoppers can head here to find interesting home decor, homemade birdhouses, locally sourced pottery and women’s clothing. The cabin cafe is a fun place to enjoy a meal before or after you shop with comfort food favorites like grilled cheese, Philly cheese steak sandwiches and homemade chicken salad.

    Where to shop
    : Shop small at the Sandhills Woman’s Exchange, located at 15 Azalea Road in Pinehurst, North Carolina (about an hour and a half southwest of Raleigh).
  • Johnson County’s Broadslab Distillery, located about 30 miles south of Raleigh, is a locally owned and operated source of bourbon, whiskey and other spirits. Tours of the distillery are bookable on the company website, and a tasting room makes it possible to sample the brand’s American-made whiskeys, spiced rum and top-secret moonshine recipes. The distillery also has its own venue on-site, called The Barn at Broadslab, which is frequently rented out for weddings, bachelor parties and other celebrated events.

    Where to shop
    : The Broadslab Distillery website is the best place to set up a tour or a tasting.
  • Tom’s Creek Nursery is a locally owned and operated nursery and farm store located in the green rolling hills of the Uwharrie Mountain range in Farmer, North Carolina — which is about 30 miles south of Greensboro. The nursery and garden center offers a range of plants and trees you can purchase and plant at home, and Tom’s also offers landscaping services. Due to the beauty of the local landscape, Tom’s Creek Nursery is also a popular location for weddings and other special events.

    Where to shop
    : Tom’s Creek Nursery website offers information on plants, tools and services available. You can shop small online or in-person.
  • Irregardless Cafe is a locally owned and operated restaurant in Raleigh that’s renowned for the farm-to-table dining experience it offers. Visitors here can nosh on local favorites like fried okra, pan seared salmon, braised lamb shank and shrimp linguine. Fine wines are offered to pair perfectly with the fresh local meals, and the cafe extends a fancy cocktail menu, too. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options are also available.

    Where to shop
    : The Irregardless Cafe website lets you make a reservation or order food for pickup.
  • Jewellery Unique Gifts & Accessories has a flagship location in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A Black-owned business, this gift shop offers a range of fun and unique jewelry pieces and accessories, as well as handbags, apparel and bath and body products. Jewellery Unique Gifts & Accessories also offers gift baskets for everyone on your list and for every occasion.

    Where to shop
    : Jewellery Unique Gifts & Accessories makes it easy to shop small on its website, but you can also visit the Winston-Salem location in person.

Small businesses in North Carolina’s coastal region

North Carolina’s coastal region is popular with tourists and locals who want to spend time at the sea. Home to beachfront towns and barrier islands, this part of the state is known for its sandy beaches, fresh local seafood and endless outdoor activities.

The coastal region of the state also hosts Wilmington and its surrounding neighborhoods, as well as award-winning golf courses, wineries and hubs for diving, kiteboarding and sailing. If you want to shop at North Carolina stores along the coast but prefer to shop small, consider the following shops and restaurants.

  • Located on Oak Island in North Carolina, By the Beach Treasures offers something for everyone. This locally-run gift shop features beach-inspired home decor, small furniture, locally made soaps and bath products, homemade candles and bedding. Beautiful jewelry is also on offer, including necklaces, bracelets and rings with designs inspired by the sea.

    Where to shop
    : The By the Beach Treasures Facebook page can help you find this store and shop small along North Carolina’s coast.
  • Skylight Inn BBQ is a barbecue joint that has been famous in the Ayden, North Carolina, area since 1947. Once awarded the prestigious James Beard “America’s Classics” Award, this barbecue restaurant is known for its pork sandwiches, barbecue chicken and fresh sides like slaw and potato salad.

    Where to shop
    : You can and should visit Skylight Inn BBQ in person, and the Skylight Inn BBQ website lets you order their famous foods for delivery nationwide. Their online gift shop also offers shirts, hats and the brand’s homemade sauce.
  • Duplin Winery boasts three locations in three different states. The North Carolina store, located in Rose Hill (about an hour north of Wilmington), is the only location that offers its own country bistro. This makes it ideal for a fun winery lunch, as well as stocking up on the brand’s famous sweet wines. While Duplin offers a range of reds, whites and specialty wines, the company is known for its dessert wines which come in flavors like blueberry or peach cotton candy.

    Where to shop
    : You can visit Duplin Winery at its Rose Hill location, but you can also head to the Duplin Winery website to stock up on wines, apparel, gift baskets and more.
  • The Black Cat Shoppe is ideal for shopping in North Carolina if your goal is finding “randomly inspired fun.” Located in Wilmington, this eclectic store offers strange gifts, clothing, home decor and memorabilia tied to various movies and television shows. For example, you can find rare items like a Back to the Future lunch box next to palm reading cards and other novelties.

    Where to shop
    : The Black Cat Shoppe website lets you shop locally from the comfort of your home, or visit their store in person to find even more.
  • Butter Cheeks Boutique is run by two sisters who live in the eastern part of the state, yet the store only sells items online. This makes Butter Cheeks a great find for those who want to shop small in North Carolina stores without driving all over the state.

    For the most part, Butter Cheeks focuses on offering unique and adorable children’s clothing and accessories. The owners also sell wholesale clothing to small boutiques, and they can make custom shirts and outfits suited to birthdays or other special occasions.

    Where to shop
    : Butter Cheeks Boutique makes it easy to shop small virtually.

Source: Google Maps

The bottom line

The boutiques, breweries, wineries and fun and funky stores we highlight in this guide offer great ways to shop locally in North Carolina this Small Business Saturday. Shopping in North Carolina is always a boatload of fun, but spending money in the local community has benefits that can last for years to come.